Math as a Language

What is Language

Language is a system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by means of which humans, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves.


Components of Language

Every language must contain the following components:

  • A widely accepted vocabulary of words and/or symbols with meaning attached to the words and symbols
  • Rules that govern how the vocabulary of the language can be used including exceptions.
  • A syntax that organizes symbols into linear structures
  • People who have accepted to use it and understand it

Math is a the most universally spoken language in the world. The syntax, symbols, and rules are accepted globally regardless of the local dialects and languages of its users.

Most students have difficulties learning Math because they do not learn the subject the way other languages are taught. Most teachers focus on teaching Math to arrive at an answer instead of helping their students understand the rules of the language.

Any student that understands the rules of a language will conquer any fears that come with learning the language.

When Math is taught as a language, it becomes greatly demystified.


Examples of Math as a Language

Math, like every language, has syntax and symbols that are used to convey meaning.

For example, \( 3 + 5 = 8\) is understood as 3 plus 5 equal to 8.

Understanding that 2 pencils + 4 pencils = 6 pencils can change how other concepts in Math be conveyed.

For example, 2 thousands + 3 thousands = 5 thousands. The rule here is that when numbers have the same units, they can be added together and the units remain the same.

When teaching Fractions and Algebra, if this rule is the basis of instruction, it demystifies these concepts.

An example of this rule applied to fractions would be \(\frac{1}{4} + \frac{2}{4} = \frac{3}{4}\). If the student is taught this as one fourth + 2 fourths = 3 fourths, it begins to make the concept easier to understand.

When the fractions have different denominators, why do we not add them together immediately? Most are taught that all fractions need to have the same denominators to add the numerators. Students should know what numerators and denominators are but instead of focusing on numerators and denominators, could students be taught instead that you can only add things together if they are the same?

The same concept can be applied as students are introduced to Algebra. Why is \(4x + 5x = 9x\)? It is because \(x\) can be viewed as the unit of 4 and 5.

Encourage Math students to learn Math the same way they learn any other language and watch their confidence and proficiency in the subject drastically improve.

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